She wants to be a veterinarian.
That's what Ittybit told me in the car that morning as we drove her brother to the babysitter's house. We had a new routine wherein she doesn't stay with the sitter but rather goes along with me a few miles further to her preschool, and she was getting used to that as well.
Technically, it would be her third first day of preschool. She’s been attending the Marilla Cuthbert Academy for Unspeakably Charming Children since the tender age of two.
“Tell me again, mama. … Am I going to the four-year class or the five-year class?”
She is four going on 24 and she’s got her life planned out already.
Instead of using the word veterinarian, however, she called it a "doctor for animals."
Who can blame her: Veterinarian is hard to pronounce.
She wants to be a doctor who waits tables and makes pies. She wants to help babies and animals that are hurt and in need of sweets. Suffice it to say she wants to help cats who are sick and dogs with “grumblies in their tumblies.”
But she's going to need assistance, she explains. She's not sure if she can fix an animal that has had its foot cut off, an affliction she's sure will be commonplace in her practice.
She's not sure if there will be "antibotices" when she grows up, either. I tell her she's quite an astute little girl, especially given the up-tick in antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
She takes umbrage, and accuses me of calling her stupid.
I tell her astute implies the opposite; that her observations are shrewd.
She's not swayed by my backtracking, but she's excited nevertheless to be going back to class with charming chums and perfectly proper professors.
This time around, however, it's her mother - and not a babysitter - who will get the full weight of the teachers' admonitions when she arrives at school painfully unprepared.
For those of you unaware of the uncommon talents of preschool teachers, let me tell you how incredibly skilled they are at making parents snap to attention not by raising their voices but by raising a single eyebrow.
See, unlike most working mothers of young children, preschool teachers are exceedingly organized. They know exactly what needs to be done in all manner of trying circumstances:
And aside from teaching their young charges to follow simple directions, become accustomed to sharing and social interactions, not to mention recognizing their own names and coloring inside the lines, what preschool teachers do best is teach children how to remind their parents of all the things they are messing up:
Teacher says I should have boots when it's raining;
Teacher says we need mittens instead of gloves;
Teacher says our hats should be attached to our coats;
Teacher says we need snow pants instead of snow suits;
Teacher says my clothes need nametags.
Teacher says you didn't hand in my book order, mom. … MOM? Did you forget my book order?
Mom? Mom? Mom?
I’m forever wondering how it is I’ve managed to raise a child who not only speaks in complete sentences but also points out my failings with such eloquence and grace in each and every one of them.
As my child learns to ask please and thank you, as she learns to wash her hands with soap before meals and keep her hands in her lap until everyone is seated at the snack table; I am reminded that we live like wolves.
She comes home from her first day of school bearing pictures she’s drawn and crafts she’s made. She talks about the things she’s learned. Meanwhile she also wonders why it is we don’t sit politely, hands in lap, waiting for daddy to bring his own plate to the table before we dig in. She’ll tell us that we should use our indoor voices; and that her brother shouldn’t eat with his hands; and that she really doesn’t understand how a person is supposed to eat without a full mouth.
“I think you mean shouldn’t talk with your mouth full.”
“Oh yeah,” she’ll laugh. “That sounds better.”
After she eats however many bites she’s negotiated before the meal, she’ll set her dishes precariously upon the counter above the dishwasher. Then she’ll turn and chastise her father – the chef - who’s moseyed on over to the freezer without clearing his plate.
“There won’t be any dessert for you, mister man if you don’t put your dish away. …”
He laughs, takes his plate and puts it down for the pooch.
“… And I don’t think you should feed those leftovers to the dog … it might upset her tummy.”
“Next year,” I tell her, “you’ll be heading off to college.”
“Will you still drive me? Because I think I’ll be a little afraid of getting on the bus.”